Reexamining Theories of
Adult Learning and Adult
Development Through the
Lenses of Public Pedagogy
Jennifer A. Sandlin,
Robin Redmon Wright
and Carolyn Clark.
Adult Education Quarterly
• “In this article, we question these master narratives of modernity and their stronghold within adult
education through a discussion of how adult learning and development are shaped by the forces of
various sites of public pedagogy, a focus we posit is missing from many dominant discourses of
adult learning and development. Public pedagogy, a concept that was widely introduced to the
educational research community through the work of Carmen Luke (1996) and other feminist
researchers in the mid-1990s and subsequently popularized through the work of Henry Giroux
beginning in the late 1990s, refers to various forms, processes, and sites of education and learning
that occur beyond the realm of formal educational institutions—including popular culture (i.e.,
movies, television, the Internet, magazines, shopping malls), informal educational institutions and
public spaces (i.e., museums, zoos, monuments), dominant discourses (i.e., public policy,
neoliberalism, global capitalism), and public intellectualism and social activism (i.e., academics who
engage with the public outside of the academy, grassroots organizations, and social movements)
(Sandlin, Schultz, & Burdick, 2010). Although public pedagogy is conceptualized in the wider
educational literature in these various ways, in this article we focus on popular culture and informal
cultural institutions, as these are the areas of public pedagogy most often taken up by adult
• “The authors examine the modernist underpinnings of traditional adult
learning and development theories and evaluate elements of those
theories through more contemporary lenses. Drawing on recent
literature focused on “public pedagogy,” the authors argue that much
learning takes place outside of formal educational institutions. They
look beyond modernist narratives of adult development and consider
the possible implications for critical adult learning occurring in and
through contemporary fragmented, digital, media-saturated culture.”
Fair Use• In good faith, this work contains fair use of copyrighted and
non-copyrighted images from the public domain & the web
for non-commercial & nonprofit educational purposes.
• This work is distributed free of charge.
• The author has neither monetized this work nor sought any
profit from its distribution.
• Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright
Act 1976: Allowance is made for fair use for purposes such
as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching,
scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by
copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-
profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor
of fair use.
• This work contains original work of commentary and critical
• Quotations are attributed to the original authors & sources.